Diarists’ Holy Day of Obligation

 At the top of this entry is the final entry that Samuel Pepys made in his famous diary, written May 31, 1669.  He began the diary (kept in a very obscure shorthand) on New Years Day 1660, but abandoned it for fear that he was going blind (which turned out not to be the case.)

Steph and I are hosting a potluck tomorrow at 4 p.m.  I’m typing this entry, which will probably be a terse one, while Steph and Susie are baking cakes in the kitchen.  I’ll be mopping the kitchen floor once they’re out of there.

I’ve already been to Aldi this morning to buy milk, bread, and butter.  The cashier there was quite pleasant.  Most of them usually are–I cannot imagine that Aldi is a fun place to work.  I have never had any complaints about service there.  (I don’t like having to bag my own groceries, but that’s part of why their prices are so low.)

The worst customer service I ever experienced was at a Brigham’s in the Back Bay section of Boston.  (Brigham’s is the New England equivalent of Dairy Queen or Tastee-Freez.)  During the summer of 1984, I was typesetting The Boston Phoenix as well as The Crimson.  During my lunch hour, I left The Phoenix’ office to grab a cheeseburger at Brigham’s.

My server was a woman so old that I think her first paying job was babysitting Baby Jesus.  I gave her my order when she arrived with her pad and pencil, and she left.  She brought my burger about 10 minutes later and set it down in front of me.  I was just about to take my first bite when she came back and snatched the plate away from me.  Someone had an identical order, and they had ordered first, she said.

I mentioned this to someone on a chagroup, and everyone who read it was appalled.  One mentioned that, for all she knew, I could have sneezed or coughed on that burger in the 30 seconds it was in my possession.

Needless to say, I never ate there again.

Susie’s Two Milestones

At the Swim and Racquet Club yesterday, Susie overcame her fear and dove from the high diving board several times–quite impressive cannonballs.

Before we went there, we learned that Susie will be Il Dottore in Isabella e la Bestia.  The show will debut late in July, and rehearsals begin next week.  Susie is rightfully proud of both these turns of events.

Health Care–And a Huge Sigh of Relief

Steph woke me around 4 a.m., a full 90 minutes before the alarm would sound, panicking.  She was afraid that the incision in her abdomen (where the cardiac catheterization was) was leaking and infected.  During the night, she was wondering why she was sweating, but only on one side of her body.  I turned on the overhead light and looked on my own, and sure enough, the incision was open, and it was leaking clear fluid.  She also felt a lump the size of a golf ball under her skin near that site.

Once 7 a.m.–my normal start time at work–rolled around, I called in and said I wouldn’t be in, since I needed to take Steph to the E.R.  Steph called her cardiologist’s office, and they scheduled her for a 2:30 appointment with the doctor who did the two clean-up surgeries after the initial botched catheterization.  (I was surprised that his office suggested this; I was expecting him to say that we needed to get to the E.R., and to get there lickety-split.)

Shermy, one of the early characters in Peanuts (he was later phased out) once said, “I wasted a good worry.”  That is an epigraph that could cover the whole hospital episode.  The doctor looked at the incision, felt the lump, and said that it was healing normally, just a little more slowly than normal.  The lump was nothing more than a bruise, and the incision just needed to be cleaned twice a day with hydrogen peroxide (he also cautioned Steph that Neosporin was a no-no).

Steph and Tanya signed up the kids for swim teams at the Olympic Swim and Racquet Club on Indianola Ave. early last evening–after a very filling meal at Tanya’s house.  They also planned to let the kids swim in the pool for awhile.  Steph gave me $10 and recommended Reedman’s Book Store in Indianola Square–a store I had never visited.

It was a good bookstore.  I’m sure I would have spent more if I had more than $10 on me, but I fared quite well.  I bought a hardcover edition of The Seven Mountains of Thomas Merton, Michael Mott’s definitive biography of Thomas Merton.  (I had a trade paperback copy, but it’s in tatters.)  I also bought a “true crime” book called Piercing the Darkness: Undercover with Vampires in America Today, by Katherine Ramsland.

Tanya suggested a bar on Oakland Park Ave., just south of the Swim and Racquet Club, which had Wi-Fi, since I had the laptop along with me.  I decided to go there and nurse some Diet Cokes while perusing my new purchases.  As I walked past the patio, I heard my name called.  It was Dave, who still worked at Medco Health Solutions as a technician–the same Merck I fled in 2004.  I hadn’t seen him since I left, although occasionally I ran into his dad in Baja Clintonville.  (His dad is a retired research chemist, and took the opportunity when he retired to have a second childhood–he’s pushing 70, with long stringy gray hair and beard, working a swing shift job in a factory.  Susie says he looks like Dumbeldore.  I enjoyed talking to Dave Sr. when he held court every morning at the White Castle on N. High St. just north of Dodridge Ave.)

It was good to see Dave–he asked about Steph and Susie, and I asked about mutual friends at Medco.  He was browsing through the Merton biography and found something tucked in the pages I hadn’t noticed.  One was a letter from Merton’s monastery, Our Lady of Gethsemani near Bardstown, Ky.  The letter was dated December 19, 1968, nine days after Merton had died in Bangkok, accidentally electrocuted on a poorly grounded fan.  The monastery mailed the letter (a form letter) to everyone who had written the monastery with condolences after Merton died.

The other document was a two-page, single-spaced letter to the abbot of Our Lady of Gethsemani, dated December 11, 1968 (the day after Merton died) from Sawang Kaniwat, Bangkok, describing the circumstances of Merton’s death and the preparations to fly his body back to the U.S.  The six Trappist delegates at the conference where Merton was speaking signed the letter.  (There’s even a bad joke about Thomas Merton–a sure sign of fame.  Q: What do Thomas Merton and John Lennon have in common?  A: Both were killed by their fans.)

I left work after three hours today.  I had requested leave for an appointment scheduled today that I ended up cancelling, and spent much of the day ripping music to my laptop.  One of the MP3s I saved as RealPlayer files was WBAP radio (Fort Worth-Dallas) on November 22, 1963.  It starts early in the morning, and goes until late that night.  Until Kennedy is shot, it’s pretty run-of-the-mill radio fare for a large metropolitan area like Dallas and Fort Worth.  I have yet to listen to the whole thing, but I kept thinking, “I know something you don’t” while I was listening to the routine morning programs and commercials. 

Phil Ochs – Crucifixion

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sd8sirz99zo
Tomorrow is JFK’s birthday. He would have been 91 years old. (I find it hard to believe that I am only a year younger than he was when he was assassinated.) Anyway, to mark the event, I am pasting in a YouTube video of Phil Ochs’ “Crucifixion,” a song he wrote in honor of JFK, RFK, and MLK. It’s in the same vein as Dion’s “Abraham, Martin, and John,” but much more poetic and many times more chilling.

First Night of Uninterrupted Sleep in Awhile, Yet I Still Awoke Exhausted

Steph and I watched Nancy Grace’s show and I lasted about 10 minutes into the 11 o’clock news before I shut off the set and decided to attempt sleep.  Although I’m usually too exhausted to move a muscle in my predawn awakenings, I’m usually tracking well enough to glance over at the digital clock on my night table to see what time is.  I’ve often thought about keeping a notepad and a pen by my bed so that I can jot down just what time I awaken, and then see if there’s any kind of pattern to it.  However, I doubt that I can remain coherent enough to get pen and paper together and focus enough–even for a minute–to write it down.  (I remember someone on L.A. Law saying, “Last night, I had to pee three times, but I was so tired I only got out of bed twice.”)

Last-night-into-this-morning, I fell asleep before the weather report, and when next I was aware of myself, the clock said 5:27–three minutes before the alarm would have sounded.  I felt like I was made of lead as I dragged myself out of bed, showered, dressed, and prepared for yet another day of civil service to the good citizens of Ohio.

There’s a lounge (with a pop machine and a candy machine) on the third floor of the William Green Building, on the opposite end of the mezzanine, and it has a very comfortable corner couch (shaped like an L) where I often stretch out and read or doze.  I set the alarm on my cell phone to go off at 6:55, and then I can make it through the doors of the Industrial Commission at 7 a.m. sharp.

Steph got another dose of doubletalk about her heart procedure.  The nurse at the Cleveland Clinic says that the head cardiac surgeon there has Steph’s records on his desk and is reviewing them, but the records are not 100% complete, which will probably warrant more examination.  He has operations scheduled already well into August, so an optimistic guess is that Steph will be seeing him in September.  Unlike the doctors we’ve worked with at Riverside, he tries to do his evaluation and his surgery as close together as he can.  This is good news for us, because it may mean not having to make so many trips back and forth to Cleveland in the months to come.

I am just wondering if Steph’s condition can stay where it is and not worsen before this doctor will be ready to operate.  (We are mentally playing all kinds of reasons into the delay, some of them optimistic, and some of them worrisome.  But this is one of the situations where you do have to take it one day at a time.)

Susie did quite well at her callback audition last night.  The director announced that the prospective thespians (News flash–Susie has come out as a thespian to us!!) should be hearing tomorrow or Friday about whether or not they’ve been cast.  He even floated the possibility of running two separate casts, which I’m sure would be more inclusive for all concerned.

Coming Back from a Three-Day Weekend

Sleeping late is an easy habit to acquire, so when I was rudely awakened to reality at 5:30 this morning, it took me a moment of lying there in bed before it dawned on me that I needed to be at work in an hour and a half.  I made it there in time, and when I got into the office and saw a Crock-Pot sitting on the table where I sort the reports I distribute, I had one of those inimitable Oh, shit!  moments.  I had forgotten until that moment that we had planned a return-to-work potluck.  Fortunately, I had promised to bring something comparatively easy.  My cooking skills are next to nothing unless it involves a microwave and a can opener (I never even knew how to boil ramen noodles until after I married Steph), although yesterday I did help Steph make potato salad–albeit with her help.

I promised to bring plasticware, punch, and paper plates.  Once I logged in for the morning, I went to the store on the edge of the Atrium that our building shares with Nationwide Insurance.  The people in the Industrial Commission refer to it as “the airport store,” because of its inflated prices in the abscence of any real competition.  (It’s kind of like Charles Colson’s pre-salvation maxim: “When you’ve got ’em by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”)  I paid such a high price for plasticware and paper plates that I learned my lesson, although my wallet was quite a bit lighter after the airport store got its pound of flesh.

That took care of the first two things I had promised (Note to self: Remember this type of thing and buy at Family Dollar in the future!), but I didn’t get the punch on my 10 a.m. break, sprinting up to a seedy little store on High Street between Broad and Gay Streets.  The punch I bought was in a gallon jug, and it was some off-brand that tasted absolutely vile.  It wasn’t enough to be the infamous “bug juice” that kids at summer camp gripe about while drinking it quarts at a time.  (I think the term “bug juice” came from the fact that it was so overloaded with sugar that you always saw a few dead gnats floating on the top.)

I’m writing this in the Shedd Theatre of the Davis Center.  Susie is here for the callback for Commedia Isabella e la Bestia (Beauty and the Beast), and since the Davis Center has Wi-Fi, I can surf the ‘Net and post blog entries (aren’t you lucky?) during rehearsals, and not have to go over to the library.  I have yet to see Susie onstage, but I think she’d feel better if she saw that I was buried in my work here online instead of fixing my eyes on her and her performance.  I’ve also blocked out much of the audio portion of this rehearsal.  I’ve already downloaded about a dozen albums from compact disks I’ve been borrowing from the library like mad.  I’ve got my headphones on and I’m concentrating on the monitor, while that weird ZImmerman kid from Hibbing, Minn. sounds in my ears.

 

Under Threat of Rain, Pre-Get Together

I have done something that I haven’t done in eons. I didn’t get out of bed until after 10 a.m.  It wasn’t because I was until some ungodly hour, either.  I shut the set off midway through the 11 o’clock news, mainly because I had no interest in learning who won the Indianapolis 500.  (People actually pay money, or stay glued to their TV sets, to watch a bunch of cars zooming around in a circle over and over?  We’re through the looking-glass here, people!)

The sky has turned from slightly cloudy to leaden right now.  We’re going to spend the rest of the afternoon (into the evening) with Pat, Tanya, and their kids.  Prudently, we decided to eat inside.  We had talked about going out in the boondocks and having a picnic out there, but Steph doesn’t want to ride her scooter in mud and rain, so we’ll be indoors.

I read Steph’s entry about Memorial Day, and it reminded me that the only exciting thing about Memorial Day for me was that it was one of the rare occasions when the mausoleum at Oak Grove Cemetery in Marietta was unlocked.  I found it fascinating to see people buried in a wall, as opposed to in the ground.  Steph mentioned the above-ground cemeteries in New Orleans, because the water table is so low there.  I have yet to visit New Orleans, but I remember seeing them during the ghoulish LSD scene in Easy Rider.

Very occasionally, as a family we would go to my mother’s family’s burial place, Olive Cemetery in Caldwell, Ohio.  On Memorial Day 1999, when Susie was just over a year old, I took her there.  It had been the first time I had been there since my parents split up (when I was 12), so I was interested to see the gravesite–the first time since my grandfather died in 1989.  So, en route to Marietta to see my dad and his wife, my friend Rich (who is addicted to anything re geneaology) made the detour to Olive Cemetery.  Here’s a picture of Susie and me at my grandparents’ grave:

The bronze tablet in the foreground, right in front of Susie, is for my grandfather, a World War I veteran.  The stone further back features his name and that of his first wife (my grandmother).  My grandmother died before I was born, and based on what I’ve heard about her, I’m glad I never met her.

She lied about an awful family tragedy when the complete truth about it was bad enough.  When my maternal grandfather was 11, his dad died under mysterious circumstances.  The story that my mother and her siblings always heard was that on a winter night, Aaron (my great-grandfather) hanged himself in the barn, so that my grandfather (Lester) would find him in the morning when he went down to do his chores.

None of us knew the real truth–except that other independent evidence indicated that my grandmother’s grotesque account was untrue.  Finally, the aforementioned friend Rich went to the microfilm files of The Caldwell Republican Journal, which was the local newspaper.  Aaron had made a date to meet a neighbor in an outbuilding on his (Aaron’s) property.  The neighbor went to the outbuilding, and found that Aaron had died by cutting his throat with a straight razor.  He had done it away from the house, and scheduled the appointment with the neighbor so that the children wouldn’t have to be the ones to find him.  (Why he did it is the $64 million question.  He had been a widower for four or five years, and the prevailing theory is that his oldest daughter was violently opposed to his plans to remarry.)

Oak Grove Cemetery in Marietta had some legends of its own.  Besides the mausoleum, one of its attractions was the grave of a Mr. Dinsmoor.  He apparently had made a fortune in oil during his time in Marietta, and when he died, he had a big monument over his final resting place.  On top of a huge tombstone, there was a statue of him that resembled the one in the Lincoln Memorial, except that oil derricks were there in lieu of the arms of the chair.  One of the crazy legends about that statue was if you walked around the base of the monument six times and threw a rock at the statue, if it hit him, one of the fingers would move.  (It’s here that I have to confess that I spent many summer afternoons, even well into my teens, checking the veracity of this.  I guess if you try hard enough, you’d see it.)

There was a kid named Brian whose family ran one of the funeral home/private ambulance services in Marietta.  I got my first bloody nose after I asked him if he slept in a bed with a lid on it.  He and I were in another cemetery, and he pointed to one of the monuments where there was a wide base, a slender shaft in the middle, all topped by a little pyramid.  Brian actually had me believing that they had taken off the top, stuffed the guy in there, and then resealed it.  After all, his family was in the business, so wouldn’t he know what he was talking about?

On an entirely different subject, while I was prowling the Web this weekend, I discovered a link to a page honoring Monitor, a long-running radio and information show on NBC.  It ran from the mid-’50s until 1975, and I remember hearing it in bits and pieces in Marietta, until WMOA-AM, the station that covered it, switched from NBC to CBS.  Anyhow, here is the link: http://www.monitorbeacon.net, so you can see it yourself.  Download the sound files, too.  They’re lots of fun!  You may even remember, “You’re on the Monitor Beacon!”

Steph’s CT Scan Went Off Quite Well & Showing Off My New Toy

This is the first entry that I have typed on my new Dell Inspiron 1525 laptop computer.  I am buying this computer, as well as an identical one for Steph.  I say buying because these computers came through Purchasing Power, a fringe benefit offered through OCSEA (Ohio Civil Service Employees’ Association).  I E-mailed Steph during one slow day at work about a month ago, telling her they had laptops for sale–and she asked if I could get two of them.  I could, and the DSL delivery guy came yesterday afternoon with two big boxes and two padded envelopes–two laptops, and yards’ worth of cords and plugs.  I am officially making my first entry on my computer, sitting on the couch with the laptop on–where else?–my lap.  Steph and Susie are with some of their homeschool friends at Cooper Stadium watching the Columbus Clippers play the Buffalo Bisons.  (This is the last season the Clippers will be at Cooper, the stadium less than a mile from our house.  They will be going to a new stadium in the Arena District, and that will mean Franklinton will lose even more jobs.  All sports except bowling (how proletarian can you get?) bore me to death, so I would normally welcome the news that baseball is leaving my neighborhood.  However, Franklinton cannot afford to lose the jobs.)

The really important news today is that Steph had a CT scan at Riverside Hospital this morning.  I brought along the laptop, because I thought–based on prior experience–that I would be there quite awhile while the technicians sought a usable vein for the dye.  Using a sonogram, they found a vein almost immediately, although the needle looked like a harpoon from Moby-Dick.  (But Steph has quite a high pain threshold–she’s married to me, after all).  Once they had her ready for the dye, she was in and out of the CT scan in 30 minutes, max.  We were able to have lunch downtown once we took all the right buses, and I made it to work at the stroke of 12 noon, which was when I said I would be there.  (I busted my ass to make sure I’d be there on time so I could attend a union Executive Board meeting–which ended up being cancelled.)

Now, her cardiac surgeon has to read the results of the CT scan before he knows what to tell the Cleveland Clinic doctor.  Then the doctor there in Cleveland will call us (ideally) to set up a consultation appointment.  We sometimes get the feeling that they’re biding their time, trying to ride this out until it gets to a point where there is no other choice but surgery.  We have also wondered if they’ve been sugarcoating Steph’s prognosis.  (Steph, like me, would much rather learn the worst and then be better prepared for it than to have it spring up on us unawares.)

 

Boredom + Idleness = Madness

I only lasted until 12:30 at the Industrial Commission.  There were no doctor’s reports in the pipeline to transcribe, and I published a stack of ex parte orders that I would normally procrastinate doing, but we were so starved for work that I actually relished this task, and it lasted less than 10 minutes.  I typed two Statements of Fact, surfed through Wikipedia many times, and finally asked to take some vacation time once 12:30 rolled around.

A captive person suffering from boredom is an irritating sight to behold.  When I was in sixth grade, I walked to one school to catch a bus to another.  For some reason, the bus I boarded couldn’t leave at its normal time.  So there were about 20 kids, fourth through sixth grades, who had nothing to do but sit there and wait for the bus driver to get the okay from the dispatcher to be able to leave.  (I can’t remember why we were grounded–it’s times like this I wish my middle school diaries hadn’t vanished.)

One guy took advantage of the idleness to compose some poetry.  He began to sing, with each syllable in its own key, “You ain’t very funny, but your nose is so runny.”  One or two people made the mistake of chuckling at this, so whenever there was a lull in the conversation or it got too quiet, he sang this immortal verse to fill in the gap.

The bus driver was as irritated as we were at the standstill.  I remember he was sitting in the driver’s seat drinking coffee from his Thermos and smoking a cigarette.  After about the 10th rendition of “You ain’t very funny…”, he said, more wearily than forcefully, “All right, I think we’ve heard enough of that.”  I wanted to effusively thank him, on behalf of all the stranded passengers.

I met Steph at Panera in Beechwold.  She met me on her scooter at the bus stop at High and Schreyer, and we stayed at Panera for quite awhile.  Her scooter battery was riding on fumes, so we plugged it in and gave it a chance to recharge.

Steph finally reached the end of her rope with her cardiac surgeon’s lack of action.  While I was picking up our order at Panera, she got the Cleveland Clinic on her cell phone, and, without having to go through the labyrinthine hell of voice mail, spoke to flesh and blood on the first try.  There were no hoops to jump through… she got straight through the head of the cardiology department’s secretary.

That was when we learned the interesting fact that Steph’s file didn’t cross his desk until Thursday, when the doctor here in Columbus had led us to believe he was going to mail it that day.  He hadn’t had a chance to read it thoroughly, because he’s had surgeries back to back most of last and this week.

But I can report some small progress.  Steph is supposed to have a CT scan on Friday, but she’s been waiting for Riverside Hospital to call and set a time.  This means I will probably take some leave time on Friday, but I have to put in for it beforehand, so it doesn’t jeopardize my being paid for Memorial Day, which is next Monday.  Steph and Susie are at a “female bonding” party at Tanya’s house, their way of honoring the full moon, so I have no idea whether the hospital’s called to tell her just when on Friday this is supposed to happen.  I’m not willing to bet the rent money that it will even happen on Friday.